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One Step Beyond

Published on 15/06/2019

More often than not the third stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro delivers a turning point in the race. Either the established order is challenged and the final stage becomes a decider, or the leaders extend. But with the new Figaro Beneteau 3 this normal mid race scenario may not apply. But for sure on Stage 3, Roscoff to Roscoff with two Channel crossing and multiple tidal gates in very light winds, there is scope for some big upsets.

Four hundred and sixty miles in light and capricious breezes, some sunshine but also a more than ample supply of the wind sucking clouds which have confounded skippers on both of the first two stages, spells of rain, big differences of wind pressure across the course, big tides and a full moon Monday, and notorious tidal gates which can close and cause the loss of many hours. It is little wonder that many of the 46 skippers looked extremely nervous at this evening’s weather and course briefing. Add to that the accumulated fatigue and the stress and disappointment of having under performed – as well as having a race leader in Yoann Richomme who appears out of reach – and Stage 3 will be……interesting.

At the start gun Sunday 1400hrs local time on the Bay of Morlaix there should be about 12-15 knots of wind for the initial showcase 10 mile opener. The course then takes the fleet east to Granville in a decreasing breeze which could be as light as zero by dawn. Low tide at Granville is 2.50 and so the fleet will need to press on hard to reach that turning mark or it could be anchors at dawn at the Videcoq mark waiting for the tide to turn.

From there it is 60 miles up to Alderney opposite the Cherbourg peninsula and the infamous raz de Blanchard or Alderney Race where the tidal current sluices between the island and the Cap de la Hague, graveyard of many La Solitaire hopes and dreams. There are opportunities for big gains and losses here as the SW wind is set to die here some 24 hours after the start.

Then it is 90 miles across the Channel, staying south of the Casquets TSS, although perhaps there might be more wind to the north. The northernmost turning mark is Hands Deep which is three miles to the NW of Eddystone light where the calm is likely to continue until Tuesday midday when a NE’y, maybe E’ly is possible. But, again, the possibility of anchoring here is not out of the question.

The it is back across the Channel to the Fromveur mark between Ushant and the TSS where, once again, then to Chaussée de Sein (130 miles), through raz de Sein and the chenal de Four up to Portsall Grande Basse buoy (50 miles) repeating the same finish leg as Stage 2, in to Roscoff. Still there is not much sign of any settled breeze Tuesday night in to Wednesday morning.

So there is every chance of an early break which could very soon become insurmountable, particularly with the strong tide at Granville, then successively at the Alderney Race, Plymouth Bay, Ushant, Sein and Portsall.

The penultimate stage sees the fleet back up to 46 starters as Benjamin Schwartz, Alain Gautier, Thomas Ruyant, Martin Le Pape, Cécile Laguette and Cassandre Blandin all return to action after repairing their respective damage.

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